Speen

The village of Speen lies 600 ft up in the Chilterns and is in the parish of Lacey Green and Loosley Row. At one time the village was referred to as Uphill, but in the Land Survey of 1823 was given the name of Speen.
At the time of William the Conqueror's Domesday Book there were only 5 or 6 dwellings in the area of Speen, but during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries more houses and inns were built, and several of these houses are still in use today. These lovely old buildings contribute to the charm of the village as do the brick and flint houses built in the early 19th century, when people were allocated plots of land at a small charge in exchange for their common rights, when the number of houses increased to 36. However, the village really began to grow after 1950 with the main increase being between 1965—1975. Today there are about 200 houses. Several of the recently built properties have been built in the style of the original brick and flint cottages. The village now has a population of approximately 700.

When the Baptist Church was built in 1802 it became the focal point for the inhabitants, and it continues to play a large part in the life of the village. The church's most important day in the year, Anniversary Sunday, is still held on the second Sunday in July, and each year a Flower Festival and Candlelit Carol Service are held. Many villagers, including non-members of the church, take part in these events, which makes them real 'village' occasions.

The Village Hall, originally built as a Temperance Hall, was bought by the village in 1924 for £125, and became the meeting place for the many clubs which were formed, including a Wireless Club where the men made their own crystal sets or 'cats' whiskers', and a thriving dramatic society. The Hall was modernised in 1970 and in 1986 had a small extension and repairs and improvements.

In the past Speen was a very close knit and industrious community with many cottage industries and smallholdings. Almost everything could be made or bought within the village which had its own shoemaker, tailors, chair-makers, chimney sweep, baker, builders, carpenters and undertaker, wheelwright and ladder maker. Men, known as 'bodgers', worked in shacks or sheds in the Hampden woods making chair legs for the Wycombe furniture trade, and the villagers could buy a permit for one shilling to collect dead wood and roots for their winter fuel. The women churned butter and cured their own bacon, and made most of the products needed for their families. Lace-making was one of the thriving cottage industries. In the 1800s there was a lace-making school in a flint and brick cottage now called The Roses, and girls started to learn the art at the age of 3. Miss Dawson of the old Bakehouse taught lace-making in the district until her retirement in 1985, and there is still a great interest in lace making in the village.
Miss Dawson was awarded the O.B.E. in 1985 for her services to lace-making.

To-day, apart from farmers, and local builders who live in the village, the only industries carried on are the Speen Pottery, Speen Spinners and Weavers, and the Stained Glass Studio at Piggotts Hill.

The rest of the Speen residents either work in neighbouring towns or commute to London.

Like so many old villages, Speen is said to have a ghost. A highwayman, Mr Cooper, is said to be buried with his treasure in Highwood Bottom, where a stone marks the burial spot. People are said to have seen the ghost of Cooper roaming the lane, and children used to be told to hurry home 'or the Highwayman would get them'. Some boys once planned to lift the stone to see what lay underneath, but they became scared and ran away.

Speen residents are fortunate to have a fine playing field, thanks to the efforts of the villagers who bought the land in 1935 from Wheelers Wycombe Breweries for the sum of £160. Every year on November 5 th there is a huge bonfire and firework display, with soup, hotdogs and doughnuts. And in July, perhaps the highlight of the year, the Speen Fete is held, when every village organisation contributes to the planning and running of the stalls and sideshows and all the villagers join in on the day. It is on these occasions that Speen once again becomes Speen Village.

Article written by members of the Buckinghamshire Federation of Women's Institutes for the publication "The Buckinghamshire Village Book" (1987) and reproduced here with their permission